Randy in the Rings: Chandler chugs along, U21s battle at Idylwylde

Max Cull and Maxime Blais of Team Horgan sweep during second-day action at the NOCA U21 Provincial Championships at Idylwylde Golf and Country Club in Sudbury, Ontario on Friday, December 28, 2018. Ben Leeson/The Sudbury Star/Postmedia Network

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For the most part, tiebreakers are simply a way of life when it comes to elite curling playdown bonspiels.

Whether it be on the regional, provincial or national stage, many are the instances where additional games were squeezed into the mix, necessitated by the inevitable log jams that seem to occur, with regularity, when gathering together many of the country’s top curlers.

The NOCA Men’s East Qualifier, last weekend in Copper Cliff, by contrast, could not have been much cleaner.

Entering the six-team competition as the favourite, in most eyes, to capture the first of three berths up for grabs at provincials next month in Nipigon, the Curl Sudbury quartet of Jordan Chandler, Sandy MacEwan, Luc Ouimet and Lee Toner did not disappoint in the least.

The local team looked more than ready to present a formidable challenge to the WCT auto bid entries skipped by Brad Jacobs and Tanner Horgan in January, knocking off, in succession, Jeff Brown of North Bay Granite (8-4), Sudbury clubmate David Daoust (10-2), the Copper Cliff Curling Club entry guided by Dustin Montpellier (8-6), and going an extra end to knock off super-busy Robbie Gordon of Curl Sudbury, 6-5.

With a flawless record of 4-0, Team Chandler was not the only squad that did not need to complete their full five-game round robin schedule to qualify for the next step. Despite their setback at the hands of the weekend front-runners, the Montpellier foursome that included Jason Strelezki, Chris Gordon and Matt Gordon also managed the trick, posting a record of 3-1 by the time that the fifth draw arrived on Saturday evening.

Victories over Cody Tetreault of Blind River (9-3), Robbie Gordon (8-7 – also in extra ends) and Jeff Brown (7-5) not only gave the Copper Cliff faithful plenty to cheer about, but also advanced Team Montpellier into the field of eight that are now vying to don the Northern Ontario colours at the Brier.

In fact, the only game on the schedule Saturday evening was a showdown between the 2-2 entries skipped by Rob Gordon and Brown. Representing the Curl Sudbury venue and joined by Shane Gordon, Mark Robinson and Frederic Diebel, Team Gordon looked to assert themselves early, scoring three in the first, only to see Brown rebound with a four-spot in end No. 2.

That back-and-forth trend continued, right through to the tenth end, when Gordon and company limited the North Bay men to just a single point, preserving a 9-8 victory and making it a highly successful weekend for area curling talent.

It’s still early, but things are holding true to form through the first few draws of the Best Western 2019 NOCA U21 Provincial playdowns, which kicked off Thursday evening at the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club.

Looking for a sixth consecutive trip to junior nationals, the trio of Tanner Horgan, Jacob Horgan and Maxime Blais (joined by vice Max Cull this year) wasted little time sending a message to all opponents, posting an impressive 15-0 win over the young Matthew Duizer entry from McIntyre Curling Club in Timmins in Game 1.

Joining Team Horgan in winning their opening encounter were Nicholas Lemieux of Sault Ste. Marie (10-8 over Chris Silver of Thunder Bay) and Myles Harding of Thunder Bay (11-4 over Joshua Landry from the Horne Granite Club).

A second-draw battle between Horgan and Harding saw the Curl Sudbury flag bearers double the northwestern Ontarians 6-3, with Team Lemieux moving to 2-0, as well, with an 11-2 win over Duizer.

On the women’s side of the draw, Team Brunton (Kira Brunton, Megan Smith, Sara Guy, Kate Sherry) and Team Croisier (Bella Croisier, Jamie Smith, Lauren Rajala, Piper Croisier) appear to be on a collision course, with the final set for 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Competing in an all-Sudbury field that also includes the Alyssa Denyer Curl Sudbury grouping (Jessica Leonard, Alyssa McVittie, Abby Deschene), Brunton set the tone on Thursday, jumping out to a 5-0 lead after five ends and defeating Denyer and company 8-1.

Team Croisier was not about to yield any ground on Friday morning, bolting to a 9-1 lead of their own (after five) and joining Brunton atop the troika of teams thanks to a 10-3 triumph over Denyer. The top two, of three, will meet Sunday afternoon in the women’s final, while the men’s sextet drops down to two finalists for the championship encounter, Sunday morning at 9 a.m. at the Idylwylde.

Meanwhile, at the club level, the Sudbury tradition that is the Industrial League has wrapped up the first half of the schedule, with 26 teams in the mix this year, competing pretty much each and every Saturday at Curl Sudbury.

The top five teams, with eight weeks of play in the books, include skip Harold Carmichael and the Sudbury Star entry (68.5 points), RBC Dominion Securities (68), the Orphans (64), KPMG (64) and Journal Printing (59.5), with CTV, Team Old Rock (both at 58) and Tony V’s (57) all well within striking distance.

Competitive curlers will catch their breath, albeit briefly, in early January, before the NOCA Masters Championship heads to the Hearst Curling Club from Jan. 9 to 13, with the senior men off to Port Arthur Curling Club for provincials from Jan. 16 to 20.

Locally, the Capreol Curling Club plays host to the Curling Club Championship Regionals on the weekend of Feb. 8 to 10.

Randy in the Rings runs weekly during the curling season.

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